The European Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) was introduced to Australia for recreational hunting in 1855 and has since spread across ~76% of the continent. Foxes breed best in locations of winter rainfall and as such, do best in the southern half of NT, however they are moving northwards and are now found as far north as Tennant Creek and the Barkly region. An individual seen by Bill Low along Colonel Rose Drive in 1981 was in excellent condition, whereas one found later in 1988 near Barkley was scrawny and emaciated. While foxes are known to be in central Australia, their numbers somewhat correlate with the presence of dingoes (foxes are less prevalent when dingoes are in abundance, possibly influencing where and when foxes can hunt).
The fox scavenges and preys on anything that is available, particularly small mammals and reptiles, but occasionally insects and fruit when prey is scarce. The fox has contributed to the decline of ground-nesting birds, small mammals and reptiles. Predation by the European Red Fox is listed as a key threatening process under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999, and as such the Australian Government has implemented a Threat Abatement Plan that aims to reduce the impact of foxes. The plan includes fox control and management programs, education of land managers and dissemination of information regarding the impact of foxes in Australia.
Fox control has had mixed success around Australia. Locally, the Central Land Council and Parks and Wildlife NT was involved in the trial of specialised bait stations that deliver poison to foxes but limit access to poison for dingos. This technique had some success but further trials were postponed (2010). Other control methods include shooting, trapping, den fumigation and fencing.
Read more about foxes in the fact sheet European Red Fox.
Land for Wildlife provided the Olive Pink Botanic Garden (OPBG) Green Army team with trapping assistance via a training workshop earlier this month (Read the workshop blog here). The team have been trialling a few trap locations within OPBG, with unexpected results.
They have had four occurrences of by-catch of Black-footed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale lateralis), who were looking for a free feed of sardines. The wallabies highlight the need for feral cat trapping as a method of protecting our native fauna. It also raises the question: What won’t wallabies eat?! The wallabies were released and the Green Army team have since moved their traps to new locations.
The team have since had their first success with a Cat (Felis catus) capture. The cat was taken to the Alice Springs Animal Shelter to determine whether it is a roaming domestic cat or a feral cat. Contact the Alice Springs Animal Shelter (Ph 08 8953 4430) if your tabby has gone missing. For more information on feral cats, view the Feral Cat factsheet. To learn about domestic cats roaming out and about, download our brochure Where Is Your Cat Now?
Alice Springs residents were shocked on Friday 17th June 2016, when a large hail storm hit the town. The storm raised a lot of excitement, but the damage to infrastructure was very clear. As far as our gardens go, hail can damage plants by sheer force of their fall, or through accumulation of weight to limbs. Hailstones can cause leaves to become shredded or pock-marked. Hail can be damaging to vegetables and decimate harvests; and large rainfall events can cause citrus to expand to bursting point. For trees, their stems can split or break, especially when hail storms are combined with strong winds and lightening (as we saw last week). In addition to visually obvious damage, plants affected by hail are more susceptible to disease, pests and rot.
The severity to which our gardens are affected by hail depends on the type of plants, as well as the force and size of the hailstones; though seedlings and plants with fresh shoots are the most affected by hail. Thankfully, the hailstorm arrived in the middle of June, when plant growth rates are slow and repair is achievable. Garden for Wildlife has some tips on how to care for hail-damaged plants:
• Trim off broken stems, branches and leaves. Pruning will help your plants to invest energy to regrowth, rather than damage repair. For trees, prune away the most affected branches and remove limbs that have severe gouges or tears.
• Remove damaged fruits to avoid pests.
• Apply fertiliser (liquid or compost tea) to the impacted plants, as this will provide the plants with the nutrition necessary to stimulate regrowth and bring on new foliage.
• Apply fungicide to prevent rot from entering plant wounds before they are able to seal.
• Keep an eye out for any early signs of pest or disease and treat accordingly.
• Place a layer of mulch around the base of the plants. Mulch will help protect the plants from any cold weather that follows and soil compaction from further storms, as well as help to retain water needed to regrow.
When hail storms or frost is forecast, take the following steps to help protect your plants from further damage:
• Place plastic sleeve tree guards, buckets, garbage cans or other items over plants or use a tarp over the vegetable garden like a tent: This creates a layer of still air and reduces wind chill.
• Relocate potted plants to protected areas (e.g. the verandah).
• Tie the leaves of tufted plants together to protect the growing point.
• Use a pressure sprayer to mist water over stone-fruit flowers and shoots just before sunset, as this freezes into a protective film of ice.
Don’t forget that local native plants, specific to your area, will be hardier than other native or ornamental plants (they’ve adapted to local growing conditions). By choosing the right plants for your block (check out the Vegetation Maps on our website), you can create a self-sustaining garden that will naturally fight back with minimal effort from you. Good luck!
Land for Wildlife are pleased to announce that we have been successful in securing funding from Territory Natural Resource Management to support the Domestic Cat Monitoring and Awareness program in Alice Springs for another year. The grant from TNRM is supported with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. The funded program involves using GPS-equipped harnesses to track the movements of domestic cats in urban and rural Alice Springs. This next round also involves trialling some video cameras on their chest to see if we can see what they get up to when they’re out and about. Part three of the program will involve analysing faecal samples for diet when they return.
We will be seeking interested domestic cat owners to be a part of the monitoring program. If you are interested in being a part of the Domestic Cat Monitoring and Awareness program, please contact the LfW coordinator, Caragh, by emailing email@example.com .
Jen features in an article in the Centralian Advocate last week highlighting the funding of cat projects across the Northern Territory by Territory NRM:
Centralian Advocate, Friday 10th of June 2016
The Land for Wildlife coordinator, Caragh, made the trip to Ntaria / Hermannsburg to help with the Junior Ranger program. With the assistance of the Tjuwanpa Women’s Rangers and Gerard Lessels, LfW helped the Ntaria Junior Rangers understand birds’ nests. The Junior Rangers learned about bird nest design, material use, nest shape and the consequences of nest site selection choices. Some local examples of birds’ nests were used to explain the multiple functions of a nest. They also heard about the Cuckoo – a bird that doesn’t build its own nest at all, but rather places sneaky eggs in the nest of other birds. The Junior Rangers suggested some animals other than birds that make nests, such as ants. To get creative, the Junior Rangers enthusiastically built their own nests, using materials in the nearby area, to explore the role of different materials in nest design and function. What a clever and inventive group of young minds!
In other Junior Ranger news, Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory are seeking interest for their Junior Ranger program in Alice Springs. This year they will be investigating the Central Australian bush, practicing their Mad Scientist skills, learning all about plants and animals, finding out what makes them tick as they interact with nature. They will also be bushwalking, map reading, tracking, camping, spotlighting and generally having an excellent time! If you know anyone aged 9-12, get their parents to contact Susie Armes (firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible to secure a position.